THE DEPARTMENT of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has offered to mediate between the Federation of Sicogon Island Farmers and Fisherfolk Association (FESIFFA) and the joint venture of Sicogon Development Corp. (SIDECO) and Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) over alleged breaches of contract on the development of Sicogon Island. “The dialogue will most likely solve the problem especially if both parties are willing to enter into an agreement that will satisfy both parties in their issues and concern. It is much better that they sit down and talk about it, that’s the best way to resolve the problem,” Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones said during a press conference in Iloilo last week. Earlier in March, Mr. Castriciones issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against SIDECO and ALI after FESIFFA filed a petition for the revocation of the DAR Conversion Order 334.64 hectares of the island.
Ryan L. Ybañez, general manager of the ALI-led Sicogon Island Tourism Estate Corp. (SITEC), said they have already temporarily stopped the operations of two existing resorts and postponed the opening of a third. “Rallies are being held. We are allowing them to rally. We stopped because the safety of our guest is paramount. So we are observing what is going to happen, but so far it will remain closed until we have absolute certainty that our guests would be safe,” he said at the press conference. Mr. Ybañez said they are hopeful and very much open to comply with the demands of the other parties. “On the livelihood assistance, we deposited P6 million of the P38 million. We cannot deposit because they won’t accept. But, if they want it tomorrow, we can deposit it tomorrow. It’s really more of the willingness, we’re sticking to compliance and we will establish it as hard as we can. We are exploring more and we are open to give more. We want to know what the demands are,” he said. FESIFFA did not send a representatives during the press conference and supposed dialogue session. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo